Hepatocellular Carcinoma – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is hepatocellular carcinoma?
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common primary liver cancer. This cancer starts in the hepatocellular cells, which are the main type of cells in the liver. HCC is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally. Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for 75% of all liver cancers.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is different from metastatic liver cancer. Metastatic liver cancer starts in another organ like breast or colon and spreads to the liver.
What causes hepatocellular carcinoma?
Mostly, HCC occurs as a result of infection with hepatitis B or C, or cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcoholism. The other causes of HCC are autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation of the liver, and iron overload.
People with hepatitis B or C are at high risk of liver cancer, even if they do not develop cirrhosis.
What are the symptoms of hepatocellular carcinoma?
The following are the symptoms of liver cancer:
- Right-sided abdominal pain or tenderness
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Enlarged abdomen
- Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
- Unexplained weight loss
How is hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review your symptoms. The doctor may suspect liver cancer if he finds an enlarged, tender liver or other signs of cirrhosis during a physical exam.
The doctor may order following tests if he/she suspects liver cancer:
- Abdominal CT scan
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Liver biopsy
- Liver function tests
- Liver MRI
- Serum alpha-fetoprotein
- Biopsy of the tumor
How is hepatocellular carcinoma treated?
The following treatments are given depending on how advanced the cancer is:
- Surgical removal of the tumor if it has not spread.
- The tumor may be treated with chemotherapy to reduce its size before the surgery.
- Ablation may also be used to destroy cancer. There are different types of ablation. Radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation, interstitial laser photocoagulation, and percutaneous ethanol injection.
- Radiation treatment in the area of cancer may also be given. But radiation is difficult to perform in people who have liver cirrhosis or other liver diseases.
Doctors may recommend a liver transplant for certain people who have both cancer and cirrhosis.
If cancer can’t be surgically removed, ablated, or has spread outside the liver, there is usually no chance for long-term cure. Treatment is given with a focus on improving and extending one’s life. Treatment, in this case, is chemotherapy and is administered by oral pills or given through a vein (IV).
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.